Khaleej Times 29 October 2014
UAE Foreign Minister tells the counter-piracy conference that UAE has always been at the forefront of leading this region in counter-piracy efforts.
UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan affirmed on Wednesday that combined international efforts have made remarkable progress, reducing the number of piracy attacks over the last two years to zero.
In his welcome note to the UAE’s fourth annual Counter-Piracy Conference, co-organised by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and DP World in Dubai, Shaikh Abdullah commended the government of Somalia on its progress in bringing peace and prosperity to the people of Somalia and in reestablishing justice and the rule of law in places where it has been absent for too long.
The UAE, he emphasised, would continue to support Somalia in meeting these challenges.
“We must continue to build the capacity of countries on the front lines of counter-piracy in the areas of information sharing, law enforcement and governance so that they can confront the challenges themselves. And it is essential that we take steps to address the root causes of piracy. This means not only improving governance to dismantle pirate networks in lawless areas, but also promoting economic opportunity and providing alternative livelihoods to those drawn in by the pirate economy,” he said.
The two-day conference assembles 600 participants including senior government officials, shipping industry leaders and academics from around the world to tackle root causes of piracy and other maritime crimes both on sea and land.
The UAE is convening the Fourth International Counter-piracy Conference in Dubai under the theme, “Securing State Recovery: Sustaining Momentum at Sea, Confronting Instability on Land.”
A joint initiative by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international ports operator DP World, the conference is being held as part of the wider 2014 UAE Counter-piracy Week, running from October 27-30.
Following is the full text of Shailkh Abdullah’s Welcome Note:
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:
It is my pleasure to welcome you to Dubai for the UAE’s fourth annual Counter-Piracy Conference. The UAE is honoured once again to be hosting such a prestigious group of participants from around the world.
This is an especially eventful week for counter-piracy initiatives here in the UAE. We were excited to host the 17th Plenary Meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, in partnership with the European Union. The Contact Group was formed pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851, so it represents the international consensus on the approach to counter-piracy. And the UAE is proud to co-chair Working Group 3 with Japan and the Seychelles. I am sure many of the useful ideas discussed in the preceding days will inform our sessions in this conference.
Before we begin, I would like to recognise His Excellency Dr Abdirahman Duale Beyle, my counterpart from the government of Somalia. Somalia is a vital partner in the efforts of the international community to fight piracy. I commend his government on its progress in bringing peace and prosperity to the people of Somalia and in reestablishing justice and the rule of law in places where it has been absent for too long. The UAE will continue to support you in meeting these challenges.
I would also like to recognise His Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the Chairman of DP World. Your dedication to the Counter-Piracy Conference over the years has been instrumental to its success. The partnership between governments and private industry must remain a driving force in counter-piracy initiatives, and DP World is a leader in this area.
With the Counter-Piracy Conference now in its fourth year, it is a good time to look back on what we have accomplished. Together with the efforts of the Contact Group, the conferences have made valuable contributions to counter-piracy responses. At the core of this has been the commitment to regional solutions, focusing on building regional capacity and ownership of initiatives. In particular, we have highlighted the necessity of working with Somalia to build their capabilities to address the unique challenges they face. The UAE has always been at the forefront of leading this region in counter-piracy efforts.
We have also promoted the public-private approach, bringing together governments, militaries and private industry to develop a multi-layered response. This has resulted in improved best practices in maritime security as well as increased information sharing.
Lastly, we have maintained a focus on humanitarian responses for those affected by piracy. This includes those still in captivity and their families, as well as former captives who continue to suffer the after-effects of their captivity.
When the UAE convened the first Counter-Piracy Conference in 2011, the piracy crisis was at its peak. That year there were 176 attacks, with more than 700 seafarers and more than 60 ships held hostage by pirates. Through our combined efforts, we have made remarkable progress, reducing the number of successful attacks over the last two years to zero.
There have been many factors in this success. An unprecedented effort by international naval forces has heightened security, deterred pirate attacks, and interdicted the criminal networks behind them. At the same time, improved enforcement efforts through regional mechanisms for prosecution, transfer and detention established a firm but fair legal system. The shipping industry has supported the development of best practices in maritime self-protection, and has undertaken the necessary investment and training.
These successes at sea were matched by notable progress on land. In Somalia, the Federal Government and the forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia have won key victories against Al Shabab militants, making important strides in reasserting control to the areas where pirates operate.
But the battle is far from won. As the UN Secretary-General noted in a report to the Security Council this month, piracy could return if our efforts flag. Unfortunately, there are some worrisome signs. Off the coast of Somalia, the number of naval forces is slowly shrinking, armed teams are getting smaller, and merchant ships are drifting closer to dangerous areas. It is important that we continue to implement the Djibouti Code, which is a key driver of information sharing and capacity building. And there is cause for concern elsewhere, such as the Gulf of Guinea and Indonesia. We cannot be lulled into complacency.
We must also remain vigilant about new threats. As groups like Daesh develop ties to criminal networks and arms networks, it is essential that we prevent them from expanding their operations into the sea and threatening vital channels such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden. The nexus of criminal groups, violent extremists, and weak states will require a coordinated response from governments and the private sector.
I would also like to mention UN Security Council Resolution 2182, which reinforces the power of the international community in combatting Al Shabab.
There is much more we can achieve. We must continue to build the capacity of countries on the front lines of counter-piracy in the areas of information sharing, law enforcement and governance so that they can confront the challenges themselves. And it is essential that we take steps to address the root causes of piracy. This means not only improving governance to dismantle pirate networks in lawless areas, but also promoting economic opportunity and providing alternative livelihoods to those drawn in by the pirate economy.
So even as we recognise our achievements, let us redouble our efforts on the tasks remaining before us. We must not forget that there are 37 seafarers still held hostage. For these seafarers and their families, the struggle continues. I hope we can keep them in mind as we continue our work in the days ahead.